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First prison sentence for pollution related crime

Media Release

First prison sentence for pollution related crime

31 May 2004

In a judicial first, the District Court has imprisoned a man for disobeying orders of the Environment Court relating to a series of pollution events.

William Victor George Conway was sentenced to three months in prison for disobeying court orders requesting him to cease polluting and for other offences. He, and his companies Cash for Scrap Ltd and Millennium Investments Ltd pleaded guilty to disobeying court orders in relation to discharging contaminants, which included battery acid, fuel, glycols, oil and metals, from their metal recycling site in Otara. The string of pollution offences was discovered by the Auckland Regional Council contamination control team.

Mr Conway advised the Court he would be appealing the sentence and was released on bail pending the outcome of the appeal.

ARC Environmental Management Committee Chairman Brian Smith says the sentence was appropriate for the extreme nature of offending.

"Both the ARC and the Environment Court have used up most of the enforcement tools available under the Resource Management Act to try and bring the defendants into line," Cr Smith says.

He says prosecution through the District Court is a last resort for the ARC but in this case continual offending and refusals to carry out environmental restoration left the ARC no option.

Following a string of pollution offences (which are chronicled in the case's agreed Summary of Facts), Mr Conway and the companies ignored numerous instructions from the ARC (including abatement notices) and enforcement orders from the Environment Court. The initial incident that led ARC staff to the site involved fourteen 200-litre drums of waste engine oil and three 50-litre drums which also included paint solvents being deliberately punctured on the site with the wastes flowing onto and into the ground and eventually discharging into a stream which flows into the Tamaki estuary.

The agreed Summary of Facts notes that such offences occurred because the defendants knowingly and deliberately discharged wastes, failed to protect the stormwater system from contamination, failed to protect the (ground) and groundwater from contamination, failed to instruct staff in appropriate (environmental) protection and failed to direct operations and manage activities such that stormwater, soils and groundwater were protected from contamination.

In sentencing Mr Conway, Judge Doogue noted that as well as ongoing pollution offences, "There was a blatant and long-standing flouting of directions which were designed to stop further discharges. Culpability for this part of the offending is high."

Cr Smith says the ARC's Pollution Prevention Team is currently undertaking an industry group project with the scrap metal recycling industry in the Auckland region.

"This project has included developing a draft Environmental Code of Practice for the industry. It has been written in consultation with the Scrap Metal Recycling Association of New Zealand and aims to provide specific guidance on environmental management issues facing scrap metal recycling sites.

"Recent visits to a number of sites across the region have indicated that there is an industry receptiveness to the project and to ideas about how their environmental performance can be improved."

People noticing dead fish or unusual discoloration and appearance in streams or ground or stormwater contamination occurring on industrial or other sites are asked to ring the ARC 24-hour Pollution Hotline on 377 3107.


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